President Bush and the Qods Force Controversy: Lessons Learned

, March 6, 2007

Vol. 6, No. 22    March 6, 2007

  • President Bush, Defense Secretary Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Pace have not been willing to say that the U.S. has specific intelligence indicating that Qods Force operations in Iraq have been approved by the Iranian leadership. The debate over the nature of the Qods Force and its links to the Iranian leadership may benefit from an analysis of Israel’s experience battling the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Qods Force and Iranian proxies like Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, whether in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, or elsewhere.
  • Senior Israeli military and intelligence officials have with a high degree of certainty linked Iran’s senior leadership with direct involvement over the past fifteen years in Qods Force operations against Israel. The Qods Force carries out these types of military operations across the Middle East, to export the revolution and establish an “Iranian Shiite crescent” through which Iran could assert regional hegemony.
  • Khomeini’s strategy was to set up a separate military command structure linked tightly to the new Islamic leadership in Iran, whose loyalty to the revolution would not be in doubt. The IRGC came to be entrusted with operating the regime’s most sensitive forces and weapon systems, including weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its foreign insurgency operations. Since Ahmadinejad’s 2005 electoral victory, he has appointed former IRGC officers to the most important senior positions in the Iranian government, further tightening the relationship between the IRGC, its foreign operations units, and the Iranian government.
  • The IDF identified a Qods Force presence in southern Lebanon during the second Lebanon war in the area of Baalbek, where there has been an IRGC presence since it established the Hizbullah there in 1982. During the war, up to 250 Qods Force trainers were in Lebanon assisting Hizbullah units.
  • Since the second Lebanon war, Iran has increased its direct support for Hamas, pledging $250 million in Oct. 2006, including $100 million to pay PA government salaries for six months.  Hamas and Islamic Jihad members have been shuttled to Iran for training at IRGC camps. The Qods Force has also reportedly set up training camps in Gaza.

Is the Qods Force Directed by Iran’s Top Leadership?

The debate in Washington still rages over whether the increasing use of Iranian-manufactured armor-piercing bombs by Iraqi insurgent forces – that have killed nearly 200 U.S. soldiers – constitutes sufficient evidence to implicate Iran’s top leadership.1 The debate has been sharpened by the January 2007 capture in Iraq of five Iranian members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) “Qods Force,” including a top Qods commander. There is now no doubt that the elite Iranian Qods Force is today active in Iraq. The question being asked in Washington is whether these units are operating with the explicit approval of the highest levels of the Iranian regime.

A tactical difference of opinion has emerged within the Bush administration. On the one hand, three senior U.S. intelligence analysts and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow linked the IRGC operations in Iraq directly to supreme leader Ali Khamenei and Iran’s “senior government leadership.” On the other hand, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, following the lead of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, have not been willing to go so far as to say that the U.S. has specific intelligence indicating that Qods Force operations in Iraq have been approved by the Iranian leadership.

This narrow distinction over exactly how high within the Iranian government hierarchy the U.S. should point an accusatory finger over official Iranian involvement in Iraq has caused a wave of media reaction that appears to question the basic credibility of the administration’s assessments regarding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Qods Force, and Iran’s role in Iraq in general.

A recent New York Times analysis by Scott Shane suggested that the Qod’s Force might be a rogue operation disconnected from the Iranian leadership.2 A Feb. 15, 2007, Newsweek article called U.S. evidence on the Qods Force questionable, confused, and ambiguous, and instead proposed a far-reaching interpretation of Iranian activity in Iraq as part of a diplomatic mission to assist the Iraqi government in its relations with the Shiite militias.3 The most forgiving report on Iran’s Qods Force came from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who said: “All the other embassies around the world have their cultural, diplomatic, scientific, educational and military attaches. I’m told members of the Qods Force are operational and officially sanctioned in many, many places in such a way.”4 This analysis makes the Qods Force appear as a group of relatively innocuous junior diplomats.

The debate over the nature of the Qods Force and its links to the Iranian leadership may benefit from an analysis of Israel’s experience battling the Qods Force and Iranian proxies like Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, whether in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, or elsewhere. Senior Israeli military and intelligence officials have with a high degree of certainty linked Iran’s senior leadership with direct involvement over the past fifteen years in ordering Qods Force operatives to provide weapons, training, funds, tactics, and strategy for terror actions against Israel.5

In fact, the Qods Force carries out these types of military operations across the Middle East, facilitating Khamenei’s and Ahmadinejad’s strategic objective of exporting the revolution and establishing an “Iranian Shiite crescent” through which Iran could assert regional hegemony from Tehran through Baghdad, across to Damascus and Beirut, and south to Gaza. Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned several times since 2004 that Iran’s political pursuit of a Shiite crescent constitutes a primary danger to the Middle East.6

Qods Force Founded to Export the Islamic Revolution

The Qods (Jerusalem) Force was formally set up as a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the late 1980s to facilitate the export of the Islamic revolution beyond Iran’s borders. From that point onward, when the IRGC operated abroad, it did so in the framework of the Qods Force. Today the Qods Force’s ideological and strategic link to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be understood in the context of Ayatollah Khomeini’s initial ideological and strategic decision to establish the IRGC in February 1979 in order to protect his revolutionary regime and to operate in neighboring countries. Khomeini’s strategy was to set up a separate military command structure linked tightly to the new Islamic leadership in Iran, whose loyalty to the revolution would not be in doubt. At the time, the regular Iranian armed forces were still suspected of containing elements loyal to the former regime of the Shah.

The IRGC thus operated as a parallel force to the regular Iranian military and came to be entrusted with operating the regime’s most sensitive forces and weapon systems, including weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its foreign insurgency operations. These foreign operations already began under Ayatollah Khomeini. For example, Sheikh Naim Qassem was a founding member of Hizbullah and now serves as its deputy secretary-general; in his book on the organization’s history, he details how Iranian official backing for its establishment “was manifested through the dispatch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to Lebanon.”7 The IRGC set up and supervised training camps for Hizbullah in the Bekaa area; Qassem does not even try to distance the Iranian regime from any of this activity. During this period the IRGC was Ayatollah Khomeini’s “prime vehicle for exporting the revolution in all its different forms.”8

Iran’s current supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s personal commitment to the IRGC began during the Iran-Iraq war when, as Iran’s president between 1981 and 1989, he was the regime’s most senior political figure directly involved in the strategic directives of IRGC and Qods Force operations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a commander in the IRGC during the Iran-Iraq war, and subsequently became a senior commander in the IRGC’s Qods Force.9

Evidence of Iranian Export of Terror

There is compelling evidence linking the Iranian leadership to foreign terror activity throughout the 1990s. Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati, and Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahiyan were implicated by a German court in 1997 for the 1992 murder of four Iranian Kurdish leaders at the Mykonos café in Berlin. In 2005, Velayati, a senior advisor to Ali Khamenei, hinted in an interview at Iran’s official role in the incident.10

There is also conclusive evidence of direct linkage between the Iranian leadership and the IRGC’s Qods Force in the 1994 terror bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Argentina that killed 85 people and wounded 151 others. On Oct. 25, 2006, Argentina’s State Prosecutor issued international arrest warrants for Rafsanjani, Velayati, and Fallahiyan, as well as former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai, commander of the Qods special operations unit Ahmad Vahidi, and Imad Fayaz Moughnieh, who headed the external security service of Iran’s proxy Hizbullah that was found to be directly responsible for carrying out the attack.11 The Argentine indictment also asserted that the AMIA terror attack was approved by supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who was not named in the arrest warrant due to his status as a clerical leader.12

There is also strong evidence of close cooperation between the Iranian leadership and the IRGC in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded 372 more. The attack was carried out by Iranian-backed Saudi Hizbullah, but led back to the leadership in Tehran. According to the autobiography of former FBI Director Louis Freeh,

“new materials and information showed almost beyond a doubt that the Khobar Towers attacks had been sanctioned, funded, and directed by senior officials of the government of Iran. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had both been in on the training and execution” (emphasis added).13

As recently as Dec. 22, 2006, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered the government of Iran to pay $254 million in compensatory damages to the families of the Khobar Towers victims. The judgment stated: “The defendants also provided money, training and travel documents to Saudi Hezbollah members in order to facilitate the attacks.”14

Today, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have reenergized and refocused the goals of Khomeni’s Islamic revolution, and they direct the IRGC and its Qods Force in the same strategic and ideological context. Since Ahmadinejad’s 2005 electoral victory, he has upgraded the influence of the IRGC in Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which he chairs. Ahmadinejad oversees the presentation of IRGC operational plans outside Iran’s borders to supreme leader Ali Khamenei for final approval.15 In the meantime, he has appointed former IRGC officers to the most important senior positions in the Iranian government, further tightening the relationship between the IRGC, its foreign operations units, and the Iranian government. Defense Minister Mohammed Najar, Foreign Minister Manoucher Motaki, and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani were all senior IRGC members.16 Moreover, Deputy Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is a former commander of the Qods Force itself.

Today the IRGC controls “all of Iran’s Scud missiles, most of its chemical and biological weapons, and provid[es] the military leadership for the production of missiles and all weapons of mass destruction.” The IRGC has close ties to the foreign operations branch of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).17

Ironically, the name “Qods” (Jerusalem) Force was adopted more as a slogan during the Iran-Iraq war than as a reflection of Khomeini’s immediate interest in conquering Israel’s capital. While the IRGC’s declared goal was to “liberate” Jerusalem after capturing Baghdad, Khomeini was much more focused on spreading the revolution to Shiite cities in Iraq such as Karballa and Najaf, and considered Jerusalem lower on his list of priorities.18

The IRGC Qods Force in Hizbullah’s Summer 2006 War Against Israel

The IRGC Qods Force posed a formidable challenge to Israel during and after the second Lebanon war due to its well-known use of sophisticated and deceptive methods to disguise its terror activities. High-ranking IDF sources note that the Qods Force, under the command of Qassem Suleimani, has been responsible for Iranian military activity and for directing Palestinian terrorist organizations in Syria and throughout the region. Iranian support for Hizbullah through the Qods Force includes $100-200 million annually, training in Lebanon and Iran, and the supply of advanced weapons and intelligence on Israel.19

Qods Force members also frequently work as Iranian diplomats and use the Iranian embassy in Damascus as a covert logistics base and to coordinate Iranian weapons smuggling and other terror activities.20 U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad made a similar assessment of IRGC operations in Iraq, noting that “Iranian diplomatic missions and offices in Iraq were providing diplomatic cover for members of the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force, who served as Iranian diplomats.”21

Iranian dissident sources also claim that the Qods Force uses Iranian embassies, cultural and economic institutions, charities, companies, and other fronts to hide their operations.22 The IDF identified a Qods Force presence in southern Lebanon during the second Lebanon war in the area of Baalbek, where there has been an IRGC presence since it established the Hizbullah there in 1982.23 Senior Israeli defense and intelligence officials confirm that the Qods Force acts against Israel as the foreign arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and that the IRGC receives official directives from the highest levels of the Iranian leadership in Tehran, most prominently, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.24

Hizbullah, like the IRGC, does not operate as an independent actor. Hizbullah Secretary Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is Khamenei’s personal emissary and coordinates his actions directly with the senior Iranian leadership. Operatively, Hizbullah coordinates terror actions with the Iranian leadership via IRGC Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, head of all Qods operations and a special advisor to supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Iraq.25 Imad Moughnieh, Hizbullah’s Chief of International Operations, maintains strong ties to Iranian military intelligence (MOIS) and was named by senior Israeli military intelligence figures as a main interlocutor with Iran during the 2006 summer war.26 Moughnieh’s longstanding links to the Iranian leadership are clear. He carried out the 1994 bombing of the Argentinean Jewish Community Center under direct instructions of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian intelligence. In 2002 Moughnieh was instructed by Khamenei to purchase the Karine A weapons ship, that Khamenei himself ordered to sail to Gaza but which was intercepted by the IDF.27

Under Moughnieh, Hizbullah also serves as an Iranian conduit for the transfer of money, weapons, and training to Palestinian terror groups via “Unit 1800” in Lebanon. This is a separate channel from the IRGC, begun shortly after the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, through which Hizbullah funnels money and other assistance directly to Palestinian groups such as Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. Shortly after the second Palestinian intifada broke out in September 2000, Iran assigned Moughnieh to assist Palestinian terror groups, specifically Hamas and Islamic Jihad.28 In view of the massive funding and direction received by Hizbullah from Tehran, it is unlikely that Hizbullah’s ambush-kidnapping of two Israeli reservists on July 12, 2007, and the subsequent rocket attacks on Israel, would have been carried out without permission from the senior Iranian leadership. A Western intelligence official familiar with Iran expressed a high level of confidence that both the June and July Hizbullah and Hamas kidnappings and subsequent rocket attacks on Israel across its northern and southern borders could be traced to the Revolutionary Guards and ultimately to Ahmadinejad himself.29 In fact, up to 250 Qods Force trainers were in Lebanon assisting Hizbullah units.30

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Qods Force operatives in Lebanon launched an Iranian-manufactured copy of a Chinese C802 radar-guided missile that hit an Israeli patrol craft during the first week of the fighting, killing four crew members.31 Since 2004, Iran has trained up to 3,000 Hizballah fighters in special IRGC training bases in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad and Ahvaz, including nearly all mid- and senior-level officers.32

According to Iranian news reports, hundreds of Iranian engineers and technicians were brought into Lebanon during the summer 2006 war in the guise of domestic servants for local Iranian diplomats. They and IRGC operatives built ammunition storerooms that also held large numbers of missiles.33

Iran also supplied medium-range rockets to Hizbullah including Iranian-manufactured, 250-kilometer-range Zelzal rockets. Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, currently Director of Iran’s Headquarters for Palestinian Intifada Support and former Iranian Ambassador to Syria, confirmed the Iranian delivery of Zelzal rockets to Hizbullah.34 According to IDF sources, the Qods Force in Lebanon was reported to have operational control over Hizbullah’s medium-range missile launchers. Iran also supplied other highly sophisticated weaponry including a generous supply of anti-tank ordinance.35

While some American analysts have suggested that the IRGC and its Qods Force have been working independently of Iran’s top leadership in Iraq and Bosnia, it would be more difficult to make that case in the second Lebanon war. The IRGC would not have had the authority nor the capability to execute the transfer of large quantities of rockets, anti-tank missiles, and other weaponry from Iran to Damascus airport and then to the Bekaa Valley without the direct approval of Iran’s senior leadership. In testimony before Congress, former U.S. Treasury official and FBI counterterrorist analyst Matthew Levitt confirmed the direct involvement of Iran in sending cargo planes with sophisticated weaponry, from rockets to small arms, to Hizbullah in Lebanon via regular flights from Tehran to Damascus.36

Since the war, Iran has continued to send weapons to Hizbullah via Damascus International airport. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Iran intends to supply Hizbullah with a quantity of surface-to-air missiles in the coming months, after a series of meetings between Hizbullah representatives and Iranian officials at which senior representatives of the Qods Force were reportedly present.37 Iranian authorities have also reportedly supplied Hizbullah with Iranian-made NOOR radar-guided anti-ship cruise missiles and Chinese QW1 shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.38

Iranian Cooperation with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Fatah

Since the second Lebanon war, Iran has increased its direct support for Hamas, pledging $250 million in Oct. 2006, including $100 million to pay PA government salaries for six months.39  Hamas and Islamic Jihad members have been shuttled to Iran for training at IRGC camps.40 The Qods Force has also reportedly set up training camps in Gaza to emulate the Murabitun IRGC training centers in Iran.41 Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei met personally with Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah on the sidelines of a 2002 conference in Tehran in support of the intifada and “promised to increase Iran’s funding for PIJ by 70 percent to cover the expense of recruiting young Palestinians for suicide operations.”42

Since the June 2005 election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leadership has tightened its cooperation with various Palestinian terror groups in order to create Iranian terror platforms in Gaza and in the West Bank, near Israel’s major population centers. Ahmadinejad personally hosted a growing number of Hamas delegations in Tehran. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah referred to Iran as Hamas’ strategic depth upon his return to Gaza from Tehran with $35 million in cash packed into suitcases.43

Israeli security officials have noted substantial increases in the supply of Iranian weaponry, training, and financing to the Palestinians since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005. Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on several occasions that tons of weaponry was being smuggled into Gaza and that Iranian-backed Hizbullah and Hamas were turning Gaza into another southern Lebanon that would soon become a strategic threat to Israel.44

Israel’s interception of the Iranian Karine A weapons ship in 2002 is perhaps the clearest illustration of direct involvement of the Iranian leadership in terror against Israel. The decision to dispatch the ship with fifty tons of weaponry was taken jointly by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yassir Arafat, while the Qods Force was responsible for packing and loading the weapons on to the Iranian-owned vessel.45

The Iranians have been working through the IRGC, Hizbullah, and Hamas to recreate in Gaza the Jihad al-Bina system they established in Lebanon in order to infiltrate the civil affairs infrastructure and essentially create another Iranian province where every major Iranian ministry maintains a branch office.46 Iran even offered the PA a substantial discount on Karine A weaponry in return for being able to run a hospital and other social welfare organizations in Gaza to build grassroots support among the Palestinian public, 85 percent of whom live on international aid. For Iran, Gaza is now a ripe opportunity to gain a humanitarian foothold as a cover for IRGC and MOIS operations, as well as to funnel aid directly to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Today, Iran is trying to build in Sunni Gaza a model similar to Shiite southern Lebanon. Tehran’s massive financial and military support and grassroots penetration translate into a degree of effective Iranian control on the ground.47

Conclusion

It is understandable why President Bush may have been publicly reluctant to link Qods Force operations in Iraq with senior Iranian leaders Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. The administration’s failure to stabilize Iraq has created residual credibility problems for U.S. policy on Iran. Moreover, connecting the Qods Force to Iran’s senior leadership places Washington on a more hostile footing on the path to a possible military conflict with the regime. Despite the risks, the administration must not obscure the fact that the IRGC and its Qods Force serve as the regime leadership’s personal human “weaponry” – one essential to enable Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to impose the revolution on Iran and to export it to the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, and the West, on the way to asserting global power.

In view of the compelling evidence presented above of Khamenei’s direct role in ordering terror actions against Israeli, Jewish, and American targets, it is of particular importance to consider the specific emphasis and personal interest the regime’s senior leadership takes in the IRGC and the Qods Force in order to fulfill the revolution’s goals in Iraq. By understanding that, from the regime leadership’s point of view, destabilizing Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel are all integral parts of Iran’s overall apocalyptically-driven objective to achieve regional hegemony under a nuclear umbrella, Washington and its allies still have a chance to stop this before it’s too late.

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Notes

1. Three U.S. intelligence officials asserted at an off-record Baghdad briefing that IRGC Qods Force activities including arming, training, and advising insurgent groups and militias are directed by the senior levels of the Iranian leadership, noting supreme leader Ali Khamanei by name. White House Press Secretary Snow reiterated the assessment. However, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then President George W. Bush were more cautious. Bush said at a February 14, 2007, White House press conference, “We also know that the Qods Force is part of the Iranian government….What we don’t know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Qod’s force to do what they did.” Seehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-%20dyn/content/article/2007/02/11/AR2007021100479_pf.html and http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070214-2.html

2. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/17/world/middleeast/17quds.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

3. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17175607/site/newsweek

4. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0702/15/cnr.01.html

5. Confirmed to the author by several senior Israeli military and intelligence officials in separate conversations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from February 17 to February 25, 2007.

6. King Abdullah II, “Iraq is the Battleground – the West against Iran,” Middle East Quarterly, v. XII, no. 2 (Spring 2005), http://www.meforum.org/article/688

7. Naim Qassem, Hizbullah: The Story from Within (London: Saqi, 2005), pp. 235-36.

8. Kenneth Pollock, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 199.

9. Mordechai Abir, “Iran’s New Revolutionary Guards Regime: Anti-Americanism, Oil, and Rising International Tension,” Jerusalem Issue Brief,  v. 5, no. 10, November 15, 2005. http://www.jcpa.org

10. “Iran’s ex-Foreign Minister Hints at Official Role in Terror Abroad,” Iran Focus, May 4, 2005, http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php? Although Iran Focus is a dissident website, it has been found to be a useful source by Israeli and American intelligence officials and analysts regarding the operations of the IRGC.

11. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/argentina_amia_e.htm

12. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/argentina_amia_e.htm

13. Alireza Jafarzadeh, The Iranian Threat (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 73.

14. “Judge: Iran Owes $254 Million for Khobar Towers,” Newsmax.com, December 22, 2006, http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/12/22/130114.shtml?s=lh

15. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran/inside/govt.html. Ahmadinejad has upgraded the voice of the IRGC in the Supreme National Security Council since his election in June 2005, according to Israeli-Iranian analyst Meir Javedanfar, author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran (Avalon 2007).

16. Dan Diker and Shimon Shapira, “Iran’s Second Islamic Revolution,” in Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), p. 37. Also available online at www.jcpa.org.

17. According to Anthony Cordesman in his 2005 book, Developing Iran’s Military Capabilities, p. 47, as cited in William McMichael, “Iran Involved in Making IED’s Pentagon Says,” Army News, February 16, 2007.

18. According to Hani al-Hassan, the PLO’s first Ambassador to Iran, in a meeting with the author in Jerusalem, November 2006. Hassan recalled Khomeini’s comment to him that Jerusalem was a much lower priority compared to Shiite holy sites in Iraq, in a personal conversation in Tehran shortly after the 1979 revolution.

19. “Hizbullah as a Strategic Arm of Iran,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, September 8, 2006, http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/eng_n/html/iran_hezbollah_e1b.htm

20. According to a very high-ranking IDF military official, in a conversation with the author in Jerusalem, February 21, 2007. See also testimony of former FBI counterterrorism analyst Matthew Levitt at a Joint Hearing of the Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, U.S. House of Representatives, February, 16, 2005, p. 7.

21. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/iraq/bal-te.envoy25jan25,0,6763210.story?coll=bal-iraq-headlines

22. “Exclusive: Terrorist Training Camps in Iran,” as cited at Regimechange.com, February 27, 2006.

23. “Hizbullah as a Strategic Arm of Iran,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, September 8, 2006.

24. This conclusion was confirmed to the author by four separate senior Israeli military and intelligence officials in separate conversations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from February 17 to February 25, 2007. Each official told the author that they were highly confident that Iran’s senior leadership including supreme leader Ali Khamanei have played central roles and continue to order IRGC and Qods Force operations against Israel as recently as the second Lebanon war in summer 2006.

25. Dan Darling, “General Panic: Meet General Qassem Suleimani, Commander of Iran’s Anti-American Qods Force,” Weekly Standard, October 5, 2005.

26. According to a very senior IDF military source, in a conversation with the author, March 3, 2007.

27. Testimony of Matthew Levitt, p. 9. Levitt testified, “Haj Bassem, Mougnieh’s deputy, personally commanded the ship that met the Karine A at the Iranian island of Kish and oversaw the ship-to-ship weapons transfer.”

28. Testimony of Matthew Levitt, p. 3.

29. Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West, p. 45.

30. “Iranian Assistance to Hizbullah. Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Officer: Hizbullah Has Iran-Trained Diver and Naval Command Units, Has Constructed Command Rooms for Hizbullah,” Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Special Dispatch Series No. 1220, July 31, 2006. Israeli Defense Forces officials noted that 100 Iranian officers were on ground in Lebanon. See Yaakov Katz, “Sailors Bodies Identified After Warship Strike,” Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2006, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=1150886004498&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

31. This was confirmed to the author by a very senior IDF source. In a February 21, 2007, article in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, an IRGC officer confirmed the Israeli assessment that Revolutionary Guards officers assisted Hizbullah in the July 14, 2006, firing of a C802 missile at an Israeli Navy vessel. http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=SP122006#_ednref1ship,ship,http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=SP122006#_ednref1

32. Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon, “The Second Lebanon War, From Territory to Ideology,” in Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West, p. 17. Also see Asharq Al-Awsat, July 16, 2006, www.aawsat.com/details.asp?sectionfiltered=1&issue=10092&article=373285

33. “Iranian Assistance to Hizbullah….” http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=SP122006#_ednref1

34. “According to an August 3, 2006, interview as cited by Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Center for Special Studies, August 8, 2006, http://www.terrorisminfo.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ali_akbar_e.htm

35. Uzi Rubin, “Hizbullah’s Rocket Campaign against Northern Israel: A Preliminary Report,” Jerusalem Issue Brief, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, August 31, 2006, http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief006-10.htm.

36. Testimony of Matthew Levitt, p. 9.

37. “Iran to Supply Hizbullah Surface to Air Missiles,” Editorial, Jane’s Intelligence Report, August 4, 2006.

38. Ibid.

39. “Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya Firmly Positioned Himself in the Iranian-Syrian Axis During His Visit to Damascus and Teheran,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, December 12, 2006.

40. Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West, p. 72.

41. Daniel Diker and Shimon Shapira, “Iran’s Second Islamic Revolution,” p. 38.

42. Testimony of Matthew Levitt, p. 5.

43. http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/801252.html

44. http://www.isracast.com/Articles/Article.aspx?ID=172

45. According to a former very senior IDF intelligence official who was involved in the interception of the Karine A, in a conversation with the author in Jerusalem, February 21, 2007.

46. Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West, p. 27.

47. Testimony of Matthew Levitt, p. 8.

 

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Daniel Diker is a foreign and defense policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is editor of the new policy study, Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and Global Jihad: A New Conflict Paradigm for the West.